Bypass big-box stores and head straight for the local galleries and shops next time your home is in need of a little artistic flair.
Story by Brooke McGrath
Without art, bare walls and empty shelves just seem to stare at you. And for those of us who aren’t as educated in the art department, sifting through the local art scene to fill those holes can be somewhat daunting. But have no fear; we asked area artists and galleries to share advice on how to easily and confidently navigate the wonderful world of art.
It starts by exploring the local galleries. (The Crossroads District, especially First Fridays, is great place to get your feet wet.) When you’re out and about searching through all styles and mediums, don’t be afraid to talk to featured artists (they enjoy talking with the public!) or gallery curators and ask questions; you might be surprised to find out that the very same things that inspire you inspire the artist. It’s also beneficial to walk the local art fairs (Westport, Brookside, Plaza) and engage in a conversation with an artist whose work strikes a chord with you; even the museums occasionally feature local artists’ works and moderate panel discussions. Don’t be afraid to expand your knowledge—and love—of all art by browsing antique stores, flea markets, local furniture shops and showrooms and any of the area’s small, creative businesses.
When scouting out that one perfect piece—a painting over the mantel, a photograph behind the sofa, a sculpture for an end table—keep in mind that there’s no rhyme or reason (or science) behind the selection process. Simply put, buy the piece that speaks to you.
“Fall in love with a painting or sculpture, and don’t apologize to anyone or feel the need to explain why,” says Seth Smith, gallery manager/art sales consultant at The Rice Gallery of Fine Art and owner of Seth Smith Studio. If it’s something that you love and represents your home and personality, go for it.
One piece of advice, though: “Think about the purpose of the room you are selecting art for and how you want to feel in it,” says the team from Weinberger Fine Art, Owner and Executive Curator Kim Weinberger, Gallery Manager Jori Cheville and Design/Marketing Director Jordan Morris.
Calmer works of art fit best in serene spaces like the bedroom, and bolder choices create conversation in, say, a dining room.
“You can look at the relationship between art and home design in a couple of different ways,” they say. “One could select a piece of art that inspires the design of an entire room or you can look at art as the cherry on top of an existing interior.”
Once you have one piece under your belt, the desire for an entire collection could soon follow. Collectors come in all shapes and sizes: Some look for original artwork that matches their home’s color palette and personality, while others set out to collect valuable pieces over time as a financial investment. Original art is available in a range of price points, appealing to a wide audience, but, keep in mind that when you buy locally, you’re also investing in the local arts community and an individual working artist. And, local artists will gladly create a custom piece if you’re so inclined.
“We do a lot of research on our artists, and often work closely with them as they develop their work,” the Weinberger team says. “We want to sell art that will appreciate over time, and we want our clients to develop collections that are aesthetically and culturally valuable.”
No matter the reason for your interest in art collecting, make it an enjoyable experience. Whether it’s a painting, sculpture, mixed media, woven textile or an antique, your home should be filled with meaningful pieces of art that appeal to you, putting aside trends and others’ personal opinions.
“If you are collecting and hanging pieces that have the common thread of your admiration, they will hang beautifully together,” Smith says. “Art can come from so many different sources, but the thing that gives them value, what gives them the definition, is that you collected it and love it. It enhances your life.”
Recently, Kim Weinberger attended Art Basel in Switzerland (think of it as New York Fashion Week for the arts industry), which showcases the latest trends in 20th and 21st century art, bringing together premier gallerists, curators, art dealers and patrons. Emerging (or re-emerging) art this year? Mixed media collage, raw materials, geometric forms, graphic patterns and minimalism.